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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition, Growth and Physiology » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #332097

Title: Fetal programming of reproduction, what we know and how we manage it

item Cushman, Robert - Bob
item BRITT, JACK - North Carolina State University
item Chase, Chadwick - Chad
item CUPP, ANDREA - University Of Nebraska
item PERRY, GEORGE - South Dakota State University
item Freetly, Harvey

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/29/2016
Publication Date: 8/31/2016
Citation: Cushman, R.A., Britt, J.H., Chase, C.C., Cupp, A.S., Perry, G.A., Freetly, H.C. 2016. Fetal programming of reproduction, what we know and how we manage it. Proceedings. Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle, September 7-8, 2016, Des Moines, Iowa. p. 242-250.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For the purposes of this paper, fetal programming will cover developmental and nutritional programming both before and after birth. Developmental programming is defined as changes in anatomical structure and/or physiology that result from differences in gene function instead of variation in DNA sequence of the gene. These changes in gene function are due to epigenetic modifications to the genome that change the rate of transcription and translation of the genes, resulting in differences in the abundance of the proteins produced. Therefore, the “output of product” controlled by a gene may be increased or decreased, but the structure of that product will not be changed. Fetal programming implies that these mechanisms are set before birth; however, there is evidence that epigenetic modifications continue to take place after birth. Even between identical twins, environmental factors (e.g., nutrition, disease, or stress) encountered during a lifetime can change the epigenetic modifications to the genome later in life, resulting in changes in promoter (e.g., the switch that turns a gene on or off) methylation, histone acetylation, and microRNA (miRNA) profiles that can alter the abundance of protein produced. While the sequence of DNA is identical within the twin pairs, the transcription and translation of those genes into proteins can be vastly different, resulting in very different phenotypes and physiological responses later in life between these two genetically identical individuals. Animal science is in its infancy in understanding how developmental programming can alter the epigenome and how we can control developmental programming to improve production efficiency. As we learn more about the mechanisms involved, we will have powerful tools for controlling function of the genome to target animals toward their niche in the production system.